British Museum Sketches

Here’s some more old sketchbook pages I scanned, this time from the British Museum. (Unlike the V&A they let you use pens and have plenty of stools to give out). The first one is metal grave goods from the Bronze Age, mostly from Central Europe and Wales. I studied Ancient History as my BA, and Bronze Age ritual landscapes and grave goods are something I’m particularly interested in. Something I’m well aware a lot of people will find horrendously boring. For the best grave goods though, see the Scythians, the nomadic horsepeople of the southern Russian steppes, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Magnificent golden jewellery, carpets, embroidery and intricate tattoos.

These are some carvings of chickens from a mural from Lycia in the southwest of what is now Turkey. Not a famous item at all, so a nice uncrowded room to sit in. The British Museum has so many rooms that it’s almost impossible to visit them all in one day. I have visited them all over the years, and as most tourists cluster in the Egyptian and Athenian rooms, you often have the other galleries all to yourself. To be honest, the British Museum has so many treasures, they could easily send back the disputed items like the Parthenon sculptures and have lots of beautiful items to fill the galleries with (whether the items which no-one is currently clamouring for were themselves legitimately acquired is another matter, up until the 1950s or so, a lot of, or perhaps the majority of anthropologists and archaeologists were essentially robbers and con people- here’s looking at you Schliemann and your dynamiting of the ruins of Troy to get to the gold).

These sculptures are from 520-450BC as I have helpfully written on the drawing. This was the period when Athens was at its peak. People often have this idea that the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans were concurrent, but this is not the case. The Roman empire didn’t even get going (or even have emperors) until the first century AD, and the Egyptian civilisation lasted for several thousand years. Even with periods like the Trojan War and Persian War, people kind of conflate the two together and assume they happened close to each other. In reality though, the Iliad was written around 800BC (whether Homer was a single person or a kind of collective oral narrative tradition is something that is up for debate) harking back to glorious legends of the deeds of the Mycenaean ancestors around 1200BC, and the Persian war was 499-449 (please remember BC dates go backwards). The Greco-Persian wars were also recorded by actual contemporary writers too (whatever your opinion of Herodotus), and the Iliad is essentially an oral tradition written down four hundred years or so later. Troy was a real place on the coast of Turkey, and there is archaeological evidence that there was conflict there at about the right time, but who knows about Achilles, Menelaus and so on.

The era of these carvings was also the period of the Persian war (please do not see the film 300 for any kind of information whatsoever- don’t even talk to me about that film), and Lycia was on the Persian side. The Lycians/Luwians who lived in the area (and had their own language– which is likely to be the same one the Trojans spoke- Troy is not very far away) are one of the less famous civilisations of the era, mainly because they were surrounded by large bossy neighbours like the Athenians, Assyrians and Hittites.

A magician calls

Another old sketchbook page I scanned in. This one is from a couple of years ago. I was teaching on a residential course for teenagers. It was in an old nunnery in the middle of nowhere, so the staff organised a lot of evening activities and film showings to keep them amused. One night a magician came to do a show, and I made these notes.

Ghost Notes

sketchbook notes of Cambridge ghost tour

When I go to museums or talks, even if I’m not actively drawing, I like to take sketch notes. It’s a habit I got into while studying for an art MA five years ago, where we were required to keep a visual diary of talks and exhibitions we attended. (You can see that diary here). Earlier in the summer I went on a ghost tour of Cambridge via work, and I took these notes. (You can read more about haunted Cambridge here too). If I’m in a situation where I’m walking around or moving a lot, I block out the text and images in non-photo blue pencil, and then do the inking later when I have a desk. If I’m sat down, then I do them straight in pen- usually a 0.7mm bullet Posca marker. I’ve scanned a few pages today from my current sketchbook, and I’ll post them gradually, interspersed among other things.

A few notes about this page:

  1. Cambridge is essentially on a drained swamp, surrounded by a lot of water, and on completely flat ground right to the North Sea. This means lots of swirling fog and mist in the winter. Ideal for ghosts and haunting.
  2. The Night Climbers are apparently a real club of students who scale buildings. Or maybe they’re ghosts.
  3. Cambridge was very badly affected by the Black Death. This means a lot of plague pits and mass graves. Again, ideal for haunting.
  4. I didn’t go in the Haunted Bookshop, because it wasn’t open very often. I did however go in the “haunted” café next door, and nothing spooky happened, apart from a braying young man with a supernaturally irritating voice yelling at the table next to us.
  5. The Everlasting Club is a local ghost story about a secret club with yearly meetings.
  6. Charles H. Fisk (I wrote his name wrong) is an American study abroad ghost.
  7. “Stone Tapes” is a reference to this famous ghost story, and its idea that ghosts could be a physical recording of dramatic and emotional moments in the past.

Procrastinating in my limited spare time . .

sketching

I should be doing more of this, but instead I’m working very long hours at the dayjob.  I’m either being a hermit, or trying to squeeze in some sort of social life. I hate rigidly scheduling things in my personal life, let’s leave that to work.

There’s quite a backlog of things I want to write about here. I also have a list of illustration projects as long as my arm that I want to work on, but haven’t been, because it’s not something I can do very well in 20 minutes here or there. This is a rough sketch for some sort of cut out and stick together Franken-Nevskiy cathedral. I’ve been to a few places that have Aleksandr Nevskiy cathedrals which are quite similar looking. In the meantime, here is a castle you can print and cut out.

Visual Diary

As part of my MA, we were required to keep a creative diary keeping track of the professional practice lectures, research, reading, exhibition visits and general inspiration. I finally got around to scanning some of the one from my second year. In the first year I used blog posts for the same purpose, but I felt the need later on for a physical record.

It’s a 1/4 sized sketchbook with pictures printed out onto cheap supermarket photo paper. I started colouring in the pages with indian ink because the printer ink kept rubbing off the cheap photo paper and leaving grubby marks on the opposite page. That’ll teach me for not buying the original cartridges or paper, I guess.

I just scanned the odd page here and there, chosen almost at random, because I filled up all 100 pages over the course of the year, and I doubt anyone here has the patience to look at all one hundred. The lectures we had were more about artists discussing their work and the path of their career than information that had to be written down for later learning, so I got into the habit of only jotting down phrases that caught my attention and encouraged further thought for my own work.

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Inside cover. The b&w passport photo is one of many I took in Vienna, where they have quite a few old-fashioned photobooths that only cost €2 a go. I’m holding a bag of Schokobananen, an austrian sweet that it seems only me and austrian people like. They’re foam/gummy bananas covered in dark chocolate. I love T.S.Eliot’s poetry, but I’m not keen of what I’ve read of his politics.

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